BC Indigenous businesses navigating through the pandemic

A recent survey by Small Business BC and their partners revealed some key findings on challenges faced by the small business community because of COVID-19. Those included everything from a drop in revenue, a decrease in demand for products and services and a reduction in staff. These businesses are not alone and their struggles are not going unnoticed; there have been a number of government programs put in place to support these businesses and there have also been initiatives that encourage people to continue to patronize their local shops and services. Small Business BC has done just that by creating Small Business Marketplace – a one stop shop for individuals to check out the amazing businesses still operational – and it includes a section to highlight the offerings of Indigenous businesses. 

At the same time, many businesses have been looking to how they can survive, pivot and still connect with their clients and communities. We spoke to three 2019 Awardees of BC Achievement’s Indigenous Business Award to see how they are faring during this crisis, what they have done to adapt and their thoughts on surviving this challenging period. 

Salish Seaside RV Haven in Victoria has introduced temporary measures to protect both their staff and visitors. Manager Tom Westley has worked with the board to ensure they are paying staff full wages despite reduced working hours. Being in the travel industry, their occupancy and revenue have taken a huge hit with booking cancellations. They remain open for the time being and are closely following the Provincial and Federal guidelines to ensure the safety of their guests, community members and staff. And they are remaining hopeful: 

 “This will come to an end and Canada, on the whole, is in far better shape than the rest of the world. One thing that has really spurred us on during these dark times are the kind words and actions of our customers. We’ve had multiple meals, sweet treats and heaps of positivity and support from our guests. Even some of our European guests who have had to cancel bookings this summer, have chosen to support this company and community by not accepting their money back.” 

Boomer and Judy Desjarlais, owners and operators of Top Notch Oilfield Contracting Ltd in Fort St John are dealing with the impact of the crisis on their oilfield and construction projects. But they’re looking at how they can help others. Boomer and Judy are supporting the elders in their community by bringing supplies to them while practicing safe distancing measures. Their advice to others is to stay home and help protect elders who are the teachers, and children who are the future. “May you have peace of mind, strength and courage during these trying times and know that this too shall pass.” 

Imagination FX is a full-service video production company based out of Port Alberni. Owner Nene Kranveldt knows all too well that to succeed, businesses need to adapt allowing new opportunities to emerge. The impact of the pandemic on her business has meant working differently: “Rather than us being on location and shooting video we have our clients shoot the video and we coach them through the preparation, scripting and tips and tricks. We then take their footage and edit and brand for their desired purpose. All is well, no disruption to service or income…just accepting and adapting.”  

Some of her projects have been put on pause but Nene hasn’t paused the relationships with her clients, friends and colleagues which she has nurtured over the years. “We reach out and offer support, we have provided some pro-bono services and we have donated to organizations that are helping families in need.” Imagination FX has also reconnected with clients from the past.  “Organizations and governments whom we have served in the past (some in completely different contexts now) have reached out for us to help them with their communication needs. Even when projects end, even when clients move onto other organizations, even when your company may not be the best fit for the work…if you have built the relationships and made the brand deposits you will never be short of opportunities.” 

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